In a chilling treatise on the nature of propaganda, 20th-century French philosopher/theologian Jaques Ellul emphasized the ultimate goal of the propagandistic state, in particular the Soviet Union:
The ultimate was achieved by Soviet propaganda in the self-criticism of its opponents. That the enemy of a regime (or of the faction in power) can be made to declare, while he is still the enemy, that this regime was right, that his opposition was criminal, and that his condemnation is just—that is the ultimate result of totalitarian propaganda. The enemy (while still remaining the enemy, and because he is the enemy) is converted into a supporter of the regime.Jaques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 11-12. Emphasis in the original
According to Ellul, the triumph of the Soviet propagandist (or any propagandistic endeavor) is complete when the enemy of the propagandist’s position admits their own guilt and affirms the justice of their opponent’s condemnation of them. This is done even though they, the propagandized, may not really be on board with the regime’s agenda. They become supporters of the regime because they no longer have the will to resist its unceasing messages and endless activism; and even though they still retain a form of their prior traditional beliefs, they now see the regime as just and themselves, their own views, and their fellow compatriots as unjust. The propagandized now act as tacit supporters of the regime and its project.
For decades, the Evangelical church in America has fallen under a sustained attack from its enemy, an explicitly anti-Christian intellectual movement that can be traced back as far as Rousseau and the French Enlightenment, but more recently derives its societal will from the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s. For much of the 1980’s, 90’s and even early 2000’s Evangelical churches, seminaries, and universities were able to resist this emerging message of socialized justice, group identity, and the concurrent call for total sexual liberation from any semblance of a religiously grounded sexual ethic. Now, however, that resistance is no more, and the propaganda of a radically Leftist regime that now also acts as “the faction in power,” has infiltrated every corner of evangelical Christian thought: in our schools, our pews— even in our private thoughts and public deeds.
For evidence of this, one need go no further than the now commonplace public apologies made by well-known pastors and Evangelical figureheads who, like athletes and politicians before them, must make public atonement to the cultural elite for exactly that which they admit to believing (perhaps unlike the politicians in this sense). Admissions of guilt by ordained ministers like Max Lucado for giving sermons on the sanctity of marriage, or the distancing of oneself from fellow believers by public intellectuals like Tim Keller, provide concrete examples of the influence of propaganda on even the “best and the brightest” of the Christian firmament. The downplaying of one’s Christian identity or recanting of one’s biblical convictions so as to be viewed by the totalitarians as acceptable “converts,” shows how this totalizing propaganda has been upon us for some time and how it is having its effect. Keller even goes so far as to suggest that it is Christians who have acted like Nietzscheans, while allowing those who have dominated culture through power, economic influence, and persistent disinformation to appear as victims of Christian anger and oppression. However, this “stop repressing me dude” schtick is a canard as old as Shelley, Blake and Byron; even if their fulminations were far more urbane than that of today’s pop-star poets.
This demonstrable fact of self-criticism, or perhaps self-flagellation, which has made it impossible for Christians to argue against the reigning social and political order without getting criticized by other Christians, is more evidence that Ellul’s theory has the ring of truth. Just to be a member of the Southern Baptist Convention today who actually speaks out, even if mildly, against any form or manifestation of Critical Race Theory, Transgenderism, Same-Sex Marriage, Abortion Rights, Feminism, or Marxist economic and social theories, will immediately be met with an avalanche of criticism from within the church; far more than from without. After all, why should propagandists outside the church exert pressure on church leaders to acquiesce, if there are enough who have been successfully propagandized within the church to do the job for them? This phenomenon is not constrained to Evangelicalism either but finds its counterpart in Roman Catholic enclaves, where homilies like this one are rare indeed.
More examples can be given: in a recent book of “prayer,” theologian Chanequa Walker-Barnes, prays that God would give her a desire to hate white people and to see them as irredeemable sinners, holding them in everlasting contempt. This is not a joke, it is a serious petition by a professing Christian minister! Walker-Barnes, who has spoken fairly recently at “conservative” schools like Biola University, prays the following in her sadistic psalm,
Please help me to hate White people. Or at least to want to hate them. At least, I want to stop caring about them, individually and collectively. I want to stop caring about their misguided, racist souls, to stop believing that they can be better, that they can stop being racist.Walker-Barnes “A Prayer of a Weary Black Woman” in A Rhythm of Prayer
With prayers like this being offered from “within” the church, is it even necessary for the explicitly anti-religious to bother with Christians anymore? Who needs a Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens as enemies (although today one might see both ironically as allies), when you have a pastor like Walker-Barnes hunting inside the sheepfold? If you thought that a cherubic-like Black woman could not be as aggressive a predator as an alpha male like Dawkins then you yourself have “drunk the kool-aid” of contemporary propaganda.
It will take men and women of unique courage, a deep sense of history, and an uncanny resistance to suggestion to stand up to today’s levels of propaganda. Perhaps more men like Artur Pawlowski, who have lived behind real Iron Curtains, are needed to shepherd the flock in today’s social media jungle. Men who have broader chests than their pseudo-intellectual counterparts and who, as C.S. Lewis pointed out in Abolition of Man, will stand their post even to the third hour of the bombardment. After all, intellectuals have not had a great track record of being resilient in the face of tyranny, as Ellul also points out earlier in the book, they are the most susceptible to propaganda.
Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes was written in 1965, long before computers or the internet were available to the public. Then there was only the evening newspapers, television and radio. Now, the stakes are higher as the media of propaganda are literally inescapable. Moreover, the propagandist himself never rests, as Ellul incisively points out:
It is a matter of reaching and encircling the whole man and all men. Propaganda tries to surround man by all possible routes, in the realm of feelings as well as ideas, by playing on his will or on his needs, through his conscious and his unconscious, assailing him in both his private and his public life. It furnishes him with a complete system for explaining the world, and provides him with an incentive to action. We are here in the presence of an organized myth that tries to take hold of the entire person. (11)
There is only one “true myth” that we should allow to take hold of our “entire person” and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a Gospel given fully to us in the boundaries of His revealed Word, the Bible. To allow any other myth to dominate our “whole man” is the end of Christ in us, and the end of any semblance of unity in His Body.
But, the enemies means for “reaching and encircling” us with his lies are now manifold: Big Business, Sports, Hollywood, Television, Radio, Social Media, Government, and Education. Where is the Christian worldview rooted in any of these institutions and cultural domains? In the major airlines; in the NBA; in our public grade schools? Hardly. It is not there, nor has it been for decades. To say that our mega-churches, our seminaries, our colleges and classrooms have successfully warded off the attacks from these domains of culture dominated by the propaganda of the enemy is at best foolish, if not outright complicit in their ungodly agenda. The first step we must take to stop this brainwashing is to quit apologizing for Christianity.
While Jesus certainly offered Himself up to His enemies, He did not perform the acts of torture Himself, nor did He deny His identity as the Messiah, nor did He commit suicide. He also didn’t He commend the Romans, the Scribes and the Pharisees for a job well done. Neither should we.